Dallas’ Pencil on Paper Gallery centers Black art and education
Pencil on Paper Gallery, co-owned by artists and married power couple Emmanuel and Valerie Gillespie, has quickly become a center for contemporary Black art and art education.
The gallery has existed for four years but moved from Addison to Dallas’ Design District last year. It provides a space that creates a dialogue between emerging and veteran artists and helps people of all ages learn how to draw and paint.
“Emmanuel and I, we are born artists. We have been hustling and painting and creating and teaching from the start,” Valerie Gillespie says. “So when people say, ‘How did Pencil on Paper start?’ I feel like we were always there, just now we have a space to share with the community.”
The space is a lovely, newly built two-story gallery, with room on the first floor for art classes and workshops. Typically, two artists present solo shows, one on the first floor and one on the second.
Pencil on Paper recently became a member of the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas. Although it is the proverbial “clean, well-lighted place,” it also transcends that stereotype to become a welcoming space and one infused with joy.
Valerie Gillespie is often on hand to greet gallery visitors, and her sheer excitement — as if she has just found the most fantastic thing in the world and wants to share it with you — is infectious.
Emmanuel Gillespie explains why this is so important by saying, “I feel when you come to the gallery, you will always be introduced to something new or something inspiring or motivational. I hope patrons always learn something new.”
Both Gillespies have rich backgrounds in education. They met while sharing a classroom at St. Philip’s School and Community Center in South Dallas, and now they both work at the Winston School, where Valerie is the director of visual and performing arts and Emmanuel teaches 3-D art.
With a gallery to run, careers in education and as working artists, and a daughter, Zoe, to raise, there’s never a dull moment for the Gillespies.
“It only works because art is at the core of all of it,” Emmanuel Gillespie says. “When we go to work together, it is about education, art and the kids. When we come home, we have our studio space and we are working. It is about art, and our daughter is an artist, too, so she’s in there with us creating.”
“By it all being art-related, and something that I love, it becomes like walking and breathing and is something that becomes who I am,” he says.
Emmanuel Gillespie is known for his public artworks, including his 2019 bronze statue of Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks outside Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, of which Gillespie is an alumnus.
Valerie Gillespie recently curated a selection of works from the art collection of NFL player Kelvin Beachum and his wife, Jessica, at Southern Methodist University.
The Gillespies were both named 2022 Art Influencers by Patron Magazine. Given their laurels, it is no surprise that talented Black artists are flocking to be shown at Pencil on Paper. The roster includes Frank Frazier, Classi Nance, Desmond Blair, Rapheal Crump and Stacie Monday.
Monday’s exhibition at the gallery, “Let the Church Say Amen,” was on display last month. Her color palette of yellow ochre, pale umber, whites, browns and gold held the space together. With the large window bathing the show in natural light, it became a spiritual space. This made the paintings of Black women and girls, many of them with halos behind their heads, come into even greater focus.
Currently, Pencil on Paper Gallery has two solo shows by Dallas-based multidisciplinary artists Sam Lao and MOM through Oct. 15.
Lao’s work is colorful, bright, abstract fabric work with gestural lines, often created by tufting. Her palette reminds me of the Spanish painter Juan Miro, yet with Lao’s own tactile, sculptural spin.
Meanwhile, MOM is creating in a more subdued palette, with work often consisting of cityscapes and landscapes that use patterned backgrounds broken up by solid colored shapes.
Pencil on Paper might not stop at art exhibitions and art instruction. The Gillespies are thinking about how to tackle one of the Dallas art scene’s most critical problems: a lack of artist residencies.
“I want to start doing artist residencies,” Valerie Gillespie says. “I want to figure out how to get all the artists who are hoping to show in the space. I want them in the space, living in the space, working in the space, showing in the space, and we’re working together.”
It would be yet another gift that this duo gives to our city.
Pencil on Paper Gallery is at 4755 Algiers St., Suite 100, in the Dallas Design District. Open noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Open by appointment Tuesday through Friday. For more information, visit pencilonpapergallery.com or call 469-360-4931.
Arts Access is a partnership between The Dallas Morning News and KERA that expands local arts, music and culture coverage through the lens of access and equity.
This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.